Imágenes de página

was "around." And Jeremiah and Mr Hanscom,—and I felt was always "around." She just done. And then the letter

had long and pleasing conversations with "Mr Hanscom" on every domestic topic connected with our housekeeping. She even drove in the buggy with him on a Sunday, but only after full consultation with me on the propriety of such a step.

But just once Emma did open her mind to me. The very first evening there was an opportunity of talking to me uninterrupted, Emma came to my room and closed the door. She was trembling a good deal, and her face was very colourless, and her poor work-worn hands were wrestling with one another but she was smiling.

"If you please, ma'am; about that Isabella. Will you let her go? She wants to go, and she is no use to you, and I'll gladly take the place, ma'am, till you go away from here. And oh, ma'am, will you forgive me for coming? But I couldn't stay away, though you never asked me to come to you-and may the Lord forgive me for telling Mr Ogilvie you had. But you see, ma'am, I never had a chance in all my life before. For forty years I've been just ugly old Emma Smith, struggling to keep mother out of the workhouse; and when she died, and I got to that hotel in London, I knew I was going to the workhouse myself. was failing, and hadn't the strength to go on. They had told me to leave because I couldn't stand the stairs and the long hours. I hadn't a friend in the world but you


came. Well, ma'am, you don't know what it meant to me. If any one but you had sent it, I wouldn't have believed it: but I knew you wouldn't be making fun of me. I had just six pounds in the world, and when that was spent there was the workhouse. Oh, ma'am, you don't think Mr Hanscom will change his mind now, do you? I know he is a good man, and I know I could make him comfortable, but then I am awful ugly and old, and I keep thinking, now he sees me, he will change his mind and take Miss Croker from the village,-I know she'd have him in a minute."

A world of woe and apprehension was in Emma's tones.

When I got downstairs there was Jeremiah at the door with a buggy that I hadn't seen before, and he desired my opinion on it. He thought it would be useful to us for our drives, and he said he guessed it would be as well to have a new one before next year.

But I could see Jerry had not come to talk about carriages. He wanted to know about Emma. And he signified that Miss Croker was pressing him rather hard, and that he wanted it fixed up right away with Emma, right now, before there was trouble. He thought Emma seemed undecided and hanging back (I couldn't repress a smile at this point), and if I didn't object he would go back to the house there and then we had moved decor

[ocr errors]


[blocks in formation]


What could I do? Of course I let them arrange it all, and, not the following Saturday but a month later, we had the queerest wedding in our parlour that the Lakeside had ever seen. We managed it all ourselves-the weddingfeast, the bride's costume (of sober grey), with an elegant bonnet with a waving feather. The children made her bouquet, and decorated the dining-room. Jeremiah's raiment was a joy to behold,his "pants" of yellow kersey, his striped waistcoat, his necktie with fringes, specially selected in Boston by a friend in the cattle trade, his new hat from Dover from a celebrated hat factory there; and then the departure of the bride and bridegroom. I think that was the moment of Emma's life. The comparatively new buggy came to the door in

charge of a diminutive_boy hired for the occasion. Jeremiah took his seat on the "oushion," and Emma-after all farewells had been saidstepped up beside him. Anything like her triumph I have never seen. And to crown all, at that very moment who should drive down the road on the other side of the laurel hedge but old Croker from the post-office and the blighted Miss Croker!

[ocr errors]

Well, Emma drove away to her new home. When John came back-he was away that week, and I and the children had had the wedding to ourselves I took him out one evening for a walk, in the hope we should meet Emma and Jeremiah passing down the road, as they often did in their evening drive. There they came, Jeremiah handling another new horse with his usual skill, Emma the personification of calm dignity, of superiority to the rest of the 'village, and of utter content. I couldn't help saying to John

"Now, look at them and admit I was right after all when I sent that letter."

[blocks in formation]



WE were sitting around the camp fire, some thirty miles north of a place called Taqui, when Lawson announced his intention of finding a home. He had spoken little the last day or two, and I had guessed that he had struck a vein of private reflection. I thought it might be a new mine or irrigation scheme, and I was surprised to find that it was a country house.

"I don't think I shall go back to England," he said, kicking a sputtering log into place. "I don't see why I should. For business purposes I am far more useful to the firm in South Africa than in Throgmorton Street. I have no relations left except a third cousin, and I have never cared


rush for living in town. That beastly house of mine in Hill Street will fetch what I gave for it,-Isaacson cabled about it the other day, offer ing for furniture and all. I don't want to go into Parliament, and I hate shooting little birds and tame deer. I am one of those fellows who are born Colonial at heart, and I don't see why I shouldn't arrange my life as I please. Besides, for ten years I have been falling in love with this country, and now I am up to the neck."


He flung himself back in the camp-chair till the canvas creaked, and looked at me below his eyelids. I remember glancing at the lines of him, and thinking what a fine make of a man he was. In his untanned field-boots, breeches, and grey shirt he looked the born wilderness-hunter, though less than two months before he had been driving down to the City every morning in the sombre regimentals of his class. Being a fair man, he was gloriously tanned, and there was a clear line at his shirt-collar to mark the limits of his sunburn. I had first known him years ago, when he was a broker's clerk working on half commission. Then he had gone to South Africa, and soon I heard he was a partner in a mining house which was doing wonders with some gold areas in the North. The next step was his return to London as the new millionaire,-young, goodlooking, wholesome in mind and body, and much sought after by the mothers of marriageable girls. We played polo together, and hunted a little in the season, but there were signs that he did not propose to become the conventional English gentleman. He refused to buy a place in the country, though half the Homes of England

Copyright in the United States of America.

were at his disposal. He was a very busy man, he declared, and had not time to be a squire. Besides, every few months he used to rush out to South Africa. I saw that he was restless, for he was always badgering me to go big-game hunting with him in some remote part of the earth. There was that in his eyes, too, which marked him out from the ordinary blonde type of our countrymen. They were large and brown and mysterious, and the light of another was in their odd



To hint such a thing would have meant a breach of friendship, for Lawson was very proud of his birth. When he first made his fortune he had gone to the Heralds to discover his family, and those obliging gentlemen had provided a pedigree. It appeared that he was a scion of the house of Lowson or Lowieson, an ancient and rather disreputable clan on the Scottish side of the Border. He took a shooting in Teviotdale on the strength of it, and used to commit lengthy Border ballads to memory. But I had known his father, a financial journalist who never quite succeeded, and I had heard of a grandfather who sold antiques in a back street at Brighton. The latter, I think, had not changed his name, and still frequented the synagogue. The father was a progressive Christian, and the mother had been a blonde Saxon from the Midlands. In my mind there was no doubt, as I caught Lawson's heavy-lidded eyes

fixed on me. My friend was of a more ancient race than the Lowsons of the Border.

"Where are you thinking of looking for your house?" I asked. "In Natal or in the Cape Peninsula? You might get the Fishers' place if you paid a price."

"The Fishers' place be hanged!" he said crossly. “I don't want any stuccoed overgrown Dutch farm. I might as well be at Roehampton as in the Cape.'

[ocr errors]

He got up and walked to the far side of the fire, where a lane ran down through thornscrub to a gully of the hills. The moon was silvering the bush of the plains, forty miles off and three thousand feet below us.

"I am going to live somewhere hereabouts," he answered at last.

I whistled. "Then you've got to put your hand in your pocket, old man. You'll have to make everything, including a map of the countryside."

"I know," he said; "that's where the fun comes in. Hang it all, why shouldn't I indulge my fancy? I'm uncommonly well off, and I haven't chick or child to leave it to. Supposing I'm a hundred miles from railhead, what about it? I'll make a motor-road and fix up a telephone. I'll grow most of my supplies, and start a colony to provide labour. When you come and stay with me, you'll get the best food and drink on earth, and sport that will make your mouth water. I'll put Lochleven trout in these streams,-at 6000 feet you can

do anything.

pack of hounds, too, and we can drive pig in the woods, and if we want big game there are the Mangwe flats at our feet. I tell you I'll make such a country house as nobody ever dreamed of. A man will come plumb out of stark savagery into lawns and rosegardens." Lawson flung himself into his chair again and smiled dreamily at the fire.

[ocr errors]

We'll have a but then another idea super-
vened, and he talked of bring-
ing the Tintorets from Hill
Street. "I want it to be a
civilised house, you know. No
silly luxury, but the best pic-
tures and china and books.
I'll have all the furniture made
after the old plain English
models out of native woods.
I don't want second-hand sticks
in a new country. Yes, by
Jove, the Tintorets are a great
idea, and all those Ming pots I
bought. I had meant to sell
them, but I'll have them out

"But why here, of all places?" I persisted. I was not feeling very well and did not care for the country.


"I can't quite explain. think it's the sort of land I have always been looking for. I always fancied a house on a green plateau in a decent climate looking down on the tropics. I like heat and colour, you know, but I like hills too, and greenery, and the things that bring back Scotland. Give me а cross between Teviotdale and the Orinoco, and, by Gad! I think I've got it here."

I watched my friend curiously, as with bright eyes and eager voice he talked of his new fad. The two races were very clear in him-the one desiring gorgeousness, the other athirst for the soothing spaces of the North. He began to plan out the house. He would get Adamson to design it, and it was to grow out of the landscape like a stone on the hillside. There would be wide verandahs and cool halls, but great fireplaces against winter time. It would all be very simple and fresh-"clean as morning" was his odd phrase;


He talked for a good hour of what he would do, and his dream grew richer as he talked, till by the time we went to bed he had sketched something liker a palace than a countryhouse. Lawson was by no means a luxurious man. present he was well content with a Wolseley valise, and shaved cheerfully out of a tin mug. It struck me as odd that a man so simple in his habits should have so sumptuous a taste in bric-à-brac. I told myself, as I turned in, that the Saxon mother from the Midlands had done little to dilute the strong wine of the East.

It drizzled next morning when we inspanned, and I mounted my horse in a bad temper. I had some fever on me, I think, and I hated this lush yet frigid table - land, where all the winds on earth lay in wait for one's marrow. Lawson was, as usual, in great spirits. We were not hunting, but shifting our hunting

« AnteriorContinuar »